Facebook Recruiter Correspondence

Sunday, October 10th 2021

With the Facebook whistleblower in the news recently, it felt like the right time to share my correspondence with a Facebook recruiter from the summer of 2020. I've omitted the name of the recruiter because I genuinely wish no animosity toward this person and understand they're just doing their job.

It started well enough, with an email arriving mid-May that I promptly ignored, like 99% of recruiter emails.

I hope this email finds you well! My name is (recruiter) and I support Facebook's Engineering teams in (place).

Now, you might be thinking, "is it really a good time to change jobs in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis?" but I can assure you, it is. Facebook has the luxury of being in an incredibly stable place with respect to the outbreak. We're still scaling hiring quite quickly, and safety for all of our employees is paramount for us.

(etc)

I deleted it and forgot about it. However, recruiters can be persistent.

Another one showed up a month later:

Hey George,

Just following up to make sure this doesn't get lost in the shuffle - would love to hear from you either way.

Thanks,  
(same recruiter)

I could've just followed the unsubscribe link, but sometimes I like responding to obviously-automated emails on the off-chance someone might actually read it.

So I replied:

Hi (recruiter),

There is no amount of money on earth that would ever make me consider working for Facebook as it exists today. But I appreciate your inquiry.

Best,  
George 

I didn't expect to hear anything back, but figured it would get the job done.

Much to my surprise, I got a response 9 minutes later:

Fair, but would you be at all interested in discussing why that is?  Because from what I’ve seen on the inside, everything everyone hates about facebook, at least half of us hate, too.  I can only figure that so many smart people who disagree with so many of the internal decisions that sometimes get made, are still here because they believe in the power of our platforms for good and they are more interested in effecting change from the inside, than criticizing from the outside.

Seriously, I think one of the biggest misconceptions people with opinions like yours might have is that we are somehow unified in these decisions or occurrences – we are not – and the healthy dissent is what, over time, hopefully bends us in the right direction.

Might not change your mind any, but I’m open to hearing any and all concerns you have about us, if you’re open to voicing them

-(recruiter)

This was interesting. On the surface it appeared to be a genuinely written response to my (admittedly flippant) shutdown. The reply came very quickly and the signature was a dash and single letter presenting the recruiter's name, like I might write in a quick response email. It also could've been another form response they used for emails expressing similar sentiments.

Either scenario intrigued me.

So I took the recruiter up on their offer and replied (Grammar/typo issues of my own making left intact):

Hi (recruiter),

Thanks for your response. First I'd like to clarify: my criticism of Facebook as a whole does not extend to everyone continuing to work there. I understand many of you are equally frustrated and/or appalled by the decisions being made by leadership. I'm also fairly certain that your response was a form reply to what is probably an influx of similar sentiment coming from prospective applicants. I hope you do not take any of what follows as a direct criticism of you (recruiter), because it's not intended to be.

That said, I question several assumptions in this statement:

> I can only figure that so many smart people who disagree with so many of the internal decisions that sometimes get made, are still here because they believe in the power of our platforms for good and they are more interested in effecting change from the inside, than criticizing from the outside.

I think the much more likely answer to why those who disagree with FB's internal decisions are still there boils down to:  

1. It pays obscenely well
2. Quitting (and the uncertainty it introduces) is scary

And you know what? I don't completely fault people for staying on for those reasons. Particularly those with families, larger financial obligations and/or are just starting out their career and worry about derailing it. We are all human beings and going along with the flow is programmed into our DNA, at least a little bit, especially when upending that status quo is unlikely to bring any obvious, immediate benefit to us. It's not our proudest characteristic, but the employees at Facebook are not exceptional or different in this regard.

The second premise in that statement though is something I'd subject to much more scrutiny. Statements such as "they believe in the power of our platform for good" probably sound great in boardroom pitches and slide decks and pull-quotes. Were I employed at FB and justifying my continued employment to myself I'd probably say the same thing to myself. Maybe some people even really believe it in earnest, and though the cynic/realist in me thinks that's naive, I would pull for them and hope they prove me wrong in some way.

Including in that second statement though is this part: "they are more interested in effecting change from the inside, than criticizing from the outside." This is the part where I have trouble being as polite. Were Facebook a public service or governmental entity of some kind I might understand and agree with this sentiment, but it's not. It's a reckless vestige of the mid-2000s startup culture that has grown and succeeded beyond what anyone might have reasonably expected. It's outlived its usefulness as a "social platform" and is in denial about what it really is: an effective propaganda distributor, a safe harbor for hate groups and threat to privacy. 

Facebook is not alone in contributing to these problems, but they are uniquely aloof about their role in all this.

The phrasing itself is a passive-aggressive dig at all the valid criticism being leveraged at FB these days, implying that those who remain are more nobly interested in "affecting change from the inside" than those of us "criticizing from the outside." Lost in this phrasing is the fact that what needs changing is Facebook's own shit culture and leadership. It is not anyone's job to fix Facebook's mistakes but Facebook. The fragility on display here in the face of criticism reinforces what I already think about leadership's maturity and understanding of this criticism.

It is not some extension of society or humanity we all participate in and owe it to ourselves to improve and contribute to. It's an obscenely rich company that is in the business of creating more problems than it ever solved and can't see this through some combination of immunity from consequence and privilege. That a thing makes money does not make it valuable and I see no value in what Facebook offers to the world—certainly not measured against all that it takes.

Best,
George Mandis

I nearly posted this a year ago, but had second thoughts, thinking it may have been too harsh. Or maybe it's because I was about to start a job search at the time and mildly concerned about what other companies might think if they saw it. That's a pretty silly concern in hindsight.

A year later... I think it's aged pretty well.

Epilogue

  • I hold no delusions I'm god's gift to web development/engineering and can so easily pick and choose where I'd want to work. I'm 90% sure I'm not the type of engineer Facebook would want in the end... and am completely fine with it 😂
  • I've made it 15 years into a career feeling as thought I'm essentially winging it. I don't really care if I'm black-balled from FAANG—particularly the "F" part.